- In 1893, women in New Zealand won the right to vote after years of campaigning.
- In many countries, women of colour and indigenous women didn’t win suffrage until decades after white women.
- Saudi Arabia is the most recent country in which women have won the right to vote, in 2015.
Exercising our right to vote is a civil liberty we often take for granted. In many places, universal suffrage is a relatively recent privilege.
Here’s when women won the right to vote in 25 places around the world.
New Zealand: 1893
In 1893, New Zealand became the world’s first self-governing country to allow women to vote in parliamentary elections. The legislation followed years of campaigning by people such as Kate Sheppard, who helmed the movement and now adorns the country’s $US10 banknote.
Finland, which was part of Russia at the time, adopted universal and equal suffrage in 1906, and women voted for the first time in the 1907 election. The legislation was spurred by a general strike related to the 1905 Russian Revolution. It granted women the right to vote and stand for election.
In Denmark, women could participate in local elections starting in 1908. By 1915, Danish women could also vote in national elections.
Icelandic women over 40 gained the right to vote in 1915. The country lowered the age restriction to 25 in 1920, matching the men’s. Today, the voting age is 18.
Following a massive demonstration in Petrograd in 1917, women in Russia won the right to vote. They were also able to hold public office.
German women could vote and run for election starting in 1918.
United Kingdom: 1918
Women in the United Kingdom first gained suffrage in 1918 through the Representation of the People bill, which allowed women 30 and older and men 21 and older to vote. However, women needed to be married or join the local government register.
Ten years later, all British citizens 21 and up gained the right to vote. The voting age is now 18.
United States: 1920
The first conference addressing the US women’s suffrage movement was the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Following the groundbreaking meeting, social reformers such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton petitioned for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment for women’s enfranchisement. However, the movement focused mainly on white women; championing suffrage for women of colour fell to women such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
Although some states enfranchised women before 1920 (in New Jersey, women could vote between 1776 and 1807), the 19th Amendment, which was passed that year, granted all female citizens in the US the right to vote.
However, Native Americans weren’t allowed to vote until they were granted citizenship with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, and many Asian Americans were not allowed to become citizens and vote until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.
Further, election officials often kept people of colour from voting with literacy tests, poll taxes, and intimidation. In 1965, then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, which made such tactics illegal but did not end them.
Women were allowed to vote in Brazil in 1932, but it wasn’t until 1945 that voting was mandatory for men and women.
Beginning in 1930, women in Turkey could vote and run for local office. Legislation passed in 1934 that expanded women’s voting rights to national parliamentary elections.
In France, women became enfranchised through legislation passed in 1944. French women were able to vote the following year in the nation’s first general election held after German occupation.
Japanese women got the right to vote in 1945 thanks in part to Lt. Ethel Weed, an American officer who advocated for civil code reform during the post-World War II Allied occupation of Japan.
Since 1952, women in Greece have had the right to vote in and run for parliamentary election.
Yucatan passed women’s enfranchisement in 1917. Starting in 1947, all women in Mexico could participate in municipal elections. They didn’t win the right to vote in national elections until 1953.
In Honduras, women won the right to vote in 1955. The victory is commemorated with a celebration every year.
Women won enfranchisement in Egypt in 1956.
Canada: First Nation women won the right to vote in 1960
On the provincial level, some women in Canada could vote beginning in 1916. Suffrage expanded to the federal level over the next few years: In 1917 nurses and women in the armed forces could vote, then women whose fathers, husbands, or sons were serving overseas. In 1918 legislation passed expanding suffrage to female citizens excluding Asian-Canadian women and First Nation women, who did not win the right to vote until the 1940s and 1960, respectively.
Australia: Indigenous Australians won the right to vote in 1962
Non-indigenous women in Australia got the right to vote beginning in 1895, when the state of South Australia passed colony- and state-wide suffrage, in addition to the right to stand for parliament. In 1899, state suffrage expanded to Western Australia.
In 1902, non-indigenous women won the right to vote on the federal level with the passing of the Commonwealth Franchise Act. Indigenous Australians didn’t get the federal right to vote until 1962.
The Bahamas: 1962
Women in the Bahamas gained the right to vote from a bill that was passed in 1961 and went into effect in 1962.
Swiss women won the right to vote in federal elections in 1971. By that year, most of Switzerland’s states had instituted women’s suffrage at the local level. However, a few didn’t allow women to vote in local elections until the late ’80s, and the state of Appenzell Innerrhoden didn’t allow women to vote in local elections until 1991.
Women in Iraq got the right to vote and run for office in 1980, but the government reduced some civil liberties during the Gulf War.
Oman instituted women’s suffrage in 1994, becoming the first Gulf Cooperation Council state where women won the right to vote. Only a select number of citizens were initially given the rights, but Oman made suffrage universal in 2003.
Saudi Arabia: 2015
Saudi Arabia is the most recent country to grant women enfranchisement. Starting in 2015, Saudi women could vote and run for office.
- Read more:
- 21 of the most important human rights milestones in the last 100 years
- Saudi Arabia runs a huge, sinister online database of women that men use to track them and stop them from running away
- The evolution of American voting rights in 242 years shows how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go
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